The big non-news in Hollywood this week is that STATE OF PLAY did crappy at the box office. This means that, in case you’ve missed this message which they deliver over and over again, grown ups don’t go to the movies so why is anybody still making movies for them?
There’s some real hard truths in this, but blaming the grown ups who don’t go to the movies is like blaming the guy with the foreclosed house for the state of the economy (someone offered him money, what was he supposed to do?)
Hollywood stopped making grown up films completely years ago. They had second thoughts when Miramax won a bunch of Academy Awards, then they all bought or created specialty divisions to make these films. Then, last year, most of them closed those divisions.
Now when a film like Duplicity or State of Play comes out, it carries a lot of weight on its shoulders because when it doesn’t do big numbers, that means the whole sector is out to lunch.
I would argue that grown ups have not willingly walked away from movies in despair. I would say that they’ve been crowded out of theaters the same way their films have been and at the same time. The only model that works for a studio releasing a film now is the one that brings in a bonanza box office on the first weekend. Forget about a movie “having legs” anymore. A film has legs these days if the box office goes down only 50%.
Grown ups don’t really care if they see a movie on opening day or not. They don’t always have the time to see it on opening day. They are a little more skeptical of marketing and want to hear about it word of mouth before spending the time to check out a film. And, as I’ve been reading, grown up films, being more complicated, don’t market as easily in a high concept sense. In other words, grown up films exist in a world where a film can sit in the theater for a few months – and that world doesn’t exist anymore except on DVD. Blaming the economy of this does not jibe with the other numbers coming out of Hollywood, ie. that people are flocking to the movies because its cheap entertainment. (Not cheap enough, as I always say here.)
Kids have free time, are looking for something to do, obsess about these things and they have money to spend.
Also, grown ups have lost the habit of going to the movies because for the last twenty-plus years they’ve had less and less reason to go. It’s not enough to make one film every once in a while and say, where’s the audience? Only years of grown up films playing in theaters could ever bring that audience back, which many hits and misses along the way. Obviously, that utopia isn’t going to happen anytime soon, so we have to look to DVD, because they do still see films on DVD.
But DVD is suffering from the same problems, leftover from dwindling releases in the theaters. This (and internet delivery) are the future of the grown up film, but the Hollywood and the financing models haven’t yet come to terms with this simple fact.
Until they do, we will get even less grown up films and more and more kids films, of every age group up to 25. It’s a bleak future, but it doesn’t have to be.